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Trump Legal News: Desperado

Yesterday, we got a reminder of why Donald Trump is so bold when it comes to flouting the law: He always finds an out. One is reminded of the old saying: fortune favors fools, drunkards, and wayward children. We'll leave it to readers to decide which group the former president is in.

Mind you, Trump did get some adverse news yesterday. And it is also the case that the very, very good news that he got is not necessarily the end of the story. Nonetheless, at the start of the day today, he was far, far closer to dodging a bullet in Georgia than he was at the start of the day yesterday, thanks to what happened during the hearing into whether or not Fulton County DA Fani Willis can continue to prosecute Trump's case.

There are, we think, three things worth knowing about what happened in court yesterday:

  1. Robin Bryant-Yeartie, one of the first witnesses to take the stand, dropped something of a bombshell during her testimony. She claimed that Willis commenced a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade well before the start of the Trump investigation. If that is true, it would be a very, very big problem, because it would mean that Willis lied to the court (after already having been caught trying to hide the relationship). Both Wade and Willis pushed back at this, and it is the case that Bryant-Yeartie has no proof of her claims, that she could not recall specific details when asked about her claims, and that Wade in particular made the argument that he could not possibly have been in a relationship with Willis that long ago, as his health would not have allowed it. Also, while everyone agrees that Willis and Bryant-Yeartie were once friends and co-workers, Willis ultimately had to dismiss Bryant-Yeartie, so there is a potential axe to grind there.

  2. Neither Wade nor Willis denies that, as part of their romantic relationship, they took trips and enjoyed other luxuries that were charged to Wade. Since Wade was drawing significant money for his work with the Fulton County DA's office, that sorta means that Willis was benefiting from the public monies she was spending. Both Willis and Wade insist that they went Dutch, and she repaid all of the costs for her portions of the trips, etc. However, they also say the payments were in cash, which means there's no record.

  3. When Willis took the stand, she was certainly... passionate about defending herself. To many observers, however, she came off as more than a little unhinged.

In short, a prosecution like this really needs to be bulletproof in terms of appearances. But now, the waters are very muddy. Judge Scott McAfee did not tip his hand yesterday, and he's already said he'll take the weekend, at very least, to make a decision. It really could go either way, largely depending on how credible the Judge found Bryant-Yeartie to be.

Should Willis be disqualified, her whole office is disqualified right alongside her. That would leave it up to Pete Skandalakis—the director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia—to select another prosecutor to take the case. Skandalakis is a Republican, but one with a reputation for being evenhanded. He's also serving in a state where public officials tend to be not so Trumpy. On the other hand, he's dragged his feet in selecting a prosecutor to deal with ANOTHER election interference case Willis was removed from (due to conflicts of interest), that of Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones (R). So, should Willis be removed, this could go either way, as well. Skandalakis might pick a replacement with all due haste, or he might sit on it until it goes away.

That, then, is the good news for Trump. Now the bad: Judge Juan Merchan did not buy the former president's motion to dismiss the New York hush-money case, and was also unwilling to delay. So, the weakest of the four criminal cases, and the one that will likely be easiest for Trump to spin, will be the first to go to trial. It's going to commence March 25, as originally planned, and it won't take long. So, he could be a convicted felon by sometime in April, or he could be someone who "beat the rap." Whether either outcome moves the needle with persuadable voters is impossible to predict.

And finally, one other fairly small bit of adverse news for Trump. Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team have already made their filing in response to the presidential immunity case, as demanded by Chief Justice John Roberts. It hit the Supremes' desks 6 days prior to the deadline set by Roberts, so that could mean that a decision will come a bit sooner than would otherwise have been the case. We suppose it depends on whether or not Clarence Thomas is currently away on a luxury vacation funded by Harlan Crow. (Z)

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